NIOSH and Partners Announce Winner of the 2023 Prevention through Design Award

Today, the third annual Prevention through Design (PtD) Award was presented to the Port of Portland, the port authority responsible for overseeing the Portland International Airport and operating other transportation infrastructure in Portland, Oregon, for their outstanding leadership in reducing workplace hazards through design methods. The award ceremony was a collaborative effort of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) and the National Safety Council (NSC).

Championing worker safety and health can be addressed in many ways. One innovative and long-term solution is by assessing the workplace environment and “designing out” hazards. According to the hierarchy of controls, the elimination of a workplace hazard is the most effective way to protect workers. The annual PtD Award highlights real world success in PtD efforts to protect workers. Through this award partners recognize leaders and encourage further use of PtD methods.

This year’s award ceremony, held for the first time ever at the NSC Safety Congress & Expo in New Orleans, LA, honored the Port of Portland’s work to advance the usage of PtD methods.

The Port of Portland was nominated for following PtD methods for a large Parking and Rental Car Center project, a $325 million construction of five facilities. They used an integrated design-safety process including the hierarchy of controls to reduce inherent risks at multiple stages of the facility life cycle, including construction, operations, and maintenance. Due to their success with PtD methods on smaller projects, this was the first large project that the team that included the Port of Portland, General Contractor JE Dunn, and Design Contractor YGH, committed to undertake.

“Anticipating and ‘designing out’ hazards in tools, equipment, processes, materials, structures, and the organization of work is the most effective way to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. “The annual PtD award seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of ‘designing out’ workplace hazards, and congratulates the Port of Portland, and all the nominees, in creatively furthering these safety measures.”

Aligning with PtD standards, the Port’s new workplace design took into account a smooth transition between constructing the parking facility and occupant use. A key element of the project success was that PtD requirements were placed in contract specifications, including the required use of the PtD pilot credit for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

“With their inventiveness, dedication and tenacity, all in the name of safety, there can be no doubt that the Port of Portland has earned this award,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “Their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of their employees as well as the generation that will follow them is inspiring. On behalf of the National Safety Council, thank you, Port of Portland, for making people safe and congratulations.”

Another aspect that contributed to the Port’s PtD success was the inclusion of a multidisciplinary team and the practice of meeting at least monthly, contributing to team buy-in. Many specific examples were provided for roof system designs, construction activities, and engineering controls to aid future workers in facility maintenance. The creativity required to avoid ladders, for example, was put to the test successfully.

“ASSP has long been a proponent of the prevention through design process, so we truly appreciate the Port of Portland’s outstanding work in this area,” said Tim Page-Bottorff, CSP, CIT, of ASSP’s Board of Directors. “By seeking employee buy-in during their project, the port authority demonstrated how worker engagement is critical to improving workplace safety and health.”

Displaying vision, the Port contacted NIOSH years ago, before the existence of a PtD award, to discuss their desire to implement PtD methods. For the benefit of workers in the wider industry, the Port team has shared their experience in construction industry conferences, provided consultation to the Pittsburgh International Airport, and has continued to collaborate with other PtD researchers and experts.

Nomination instructions for the fourth annual Prevention through Design (PtD) Award in 2024 are now available on the PtD award website. Nominations are due the first weekday of April. In addition to NSC and ASSP, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) announced their partnership for the fourth annual PtD Award.

For more information on Prevention through Design, visit the NIOSH PtD website.

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